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Western Lucas County growth steady for decades

A housing community the size of Waterside Sylvania needs to be located on the outskirts or builders will run out of space.

“This is the very edge of Sylvania Township,” said JP Ankney, co-owner of Gulfstream Development, as he walked along Windward Drive and Montauk Court within the Waterside Sylvania community. “That field over there is Richfield Township.”

Land, tax incentives, school districts, utility and road infrastructure, and most recently the coronavirus pandemic are among the reasons that developers like Mr. Ankney and area officials cited for the commercial and residential growth in western Lucas County throughout the years.

“The development pressure is west of Toledo,” said William Harbert, Lucas County planner.

The areas that are seeing this kind of growth, Mr. Harbert said, are Sylvania Township, Monclova Township, and Springfield Township, and of those municipalities, many of the larger projects are occurring in Sylvania and Monclova townships.

Specifically, in those areas, he said, the land is open enough for the bigger industrial or housing developments that need more space, but it also has the infrastructure needed to support the construction.

Go too far west, like Providence, Spencer, and Harding townships, Mr. Harbert said, and the required utilities network hasn’t quite gotten there yet. But the only township east of Toledo is Jerusalem Township, he said, and in that direction, utilities like water and sewer are fuller and therefore more limited.

In the western areas, Mr. Harbert said the growth has been steady for the past several decades.

“I’ve been the county planner for probably six or seven years now,” he said. “It’s always been this way.”

Gulfstream Development also builds homes in Waterside Monclova, a Monclova Township community similar to the one in Sylvania Township. Also in Sylvania Township, another developer, Rivertree LLC, submitted plans for a 101-unit subdivision on 41.6 acres earlier this year.

Tim Mays, owner of Mavillino Custom Homes and a partner on the Rivertree Subdivision project, said the land for the project, at 9101 W Sylvania Ave., has been owned by the developer, Millstream Development Company, for years. And with the current extremely high demand for homes, the suburban areas have more space to accommodate such projects.

“If you’re talking about Toledo specifically, there’s definitely not a lot of land opportunities,” he said.

Decades ago, travelers relied on Reynolds Road, which is located closer to the city, for journeying north and south in Lucas County, but the placement of I-475 many years ago has aided the more open western part of the county in attracting businesses and residents of its own.

“Being off that 475 is critical,” said Pete Shawaker, a Toledo commercial Realtor.

Population growth and the establishment of services — restaurants, retail, etc. — often come parallel to an area, but Mr. Shawaker said many retailers like to see the population there first.

“I would say western Lucas County has benefited from the overflow from Toledo,” he said.

Mr. Shawaker, though, believes that the growth in the western part of the county might soon be slowing down and stabilizing. Both Sylvania and Springfield townships, he believes, are fairly well built out, and while the trend will continue, it won’t be with the gusto that the region is accustomed to.

But he also pointed out that he doesn’t think that kind of development would be a problem and that communities like Springfield and Sylvania townships simply aren’t as dependent on growth as they were.

“There’s not much more community that’s going to happen out in those areas,” he said. “No big changes on the horizon.”

Others, however, see the trend continuing.

Jim Fritz, superintendent of Anthony Wayne Local Schools, has been in his current position for 11 years and has spent 18 years total with Anthony Wayne. In that time, he said, the biggest development to the southwestern region has been an increase of housing communities.

“Our enrollment, ironically, has not grown at the same pace,” he said.

There are a few reasons for that, Mr. Fritz said, including the falling birth rate and that much of the time, new housing developments are marketed more toward the post-retirement group rather than new families.

And financially for the school district, Mr. Fritz said, greater economic development means shifting sources of funding.

“If your property wealth goes up, you see less and less money from the state,” he said.

But with new apartment complexes planned for the area, Mr. Fritz anticipates that enrollment increases are likely to follow.

“Unless the economy does what it did back in 2008 and 2010, I think you’ll continue to see development, along 475 especially,” Mr. Fritz said. “We’re the next area, along with Perrysburg and Springfield.”

Sylvania Schools Superintendent Veronica Motley has only been in the role for less than a year but said she and other school officials are consistently monitoring developments to determine what kind of effects the school district could expect to encounter, such as a changing enrollment.

In the fall, Sylvania administrators are planning to complete a strategic plan for the district, Ms. Motley said, and part of that will be assessing the district’s physical buildings for capacity. Specifically, the plan will address what staff could reasonably expect from an increase or downturn in enrollment.

However, like Anthony Wayne, Ms. Motley said Sylvania’s enrollment hasn’t fluctuated much. At approximately 7,800 students currently, she said it has generally always been within 1,000 or 1,500 of that number.

“We’ve maintained a pretty steady enrollment,” she said.

So far in 2021, 61 single family dwelling permits have been issued for Sylvania Township, said Oliver Turner, township administrator. In 2020, 106 permits were issued, and in 2019, 100 permits were issued.

Development in the township, he believes, comes down to individual needs, whether a family’s needs or a business’s needs.

“I think for the future, we’re prepared to meet continuing trends,” he said.

From history, John Crandall, Sylvania Township Trustee chairman, said that township officials know that people move to the township because of the school system and the recreation. There’s office space, restaurants, shopping, and no income tax.

“If your business is in the township and you live in the township, you have quite a benefit,” he said.

It’s impossible, though, Mr. Crandall and several other officials said, to completely divorce the development happening in the western townships from the development happening in Toledo.

“If Toledo’s not doing well, none of us are doing well,” Mr. Crandall said.

Brandon Sehlhorst, Toledo’s economic development commissioner, said the days of each municipality having its own distinct economy disconnected from the surrounding area are gone. The idea in northwest Ohio, he said, is to market regionally and sell locally.

“People know Toledo, they know northwest Ohio,” he said. “They don’t necessarily know these other communities.”

The city is a partner along with Monclova Township and Maumee in the joint economic development district in Triad Business Park off Technology Drive west of I-475. JEDDs are a way for multiple municipalities to foster economic development and benefit from income taxes within the boundary of the district.

The townships have the land for development, Mr. Sehlhorst said, but don’t always have the resources that Toledo does. So, working together is paramount to progress.

“Economic development in the city is redevelopment,” he said. “So, it’s different than what you see out in the county.”

Pointing at the sale of the former Southwyck Mall property to Amazon as an example, Mr. Sehlhorst acknowledged that since Toledo doesn’t have an abundance of greenfield sites within the city that could be developed, officials have to get creative with the properties that are available.

And when Toledo’s economic development is on the upswing, the effects radiate outward.

“When you have a strong core, everyone else benefits,” he said.

Out at Waterside Sylvania, Mr. Ankney said residents often come from the east, such as West Toledo and other parts of the Sylvania area. In Monclova, residents tend to come from the South Toledo and Maumee areas.

“There’s a whole lot of jobs coming to this area, and people aren’t afraid to drive 15, 20 miles,” he said.

Next, Gulfstream plans to be looking at the Perrysburg and Rossford areas for housing expansion, Mr. Ankney said. That’s where he believes some of the western county development will spread to.

“I think every municipality in northwest Ohio is a piece of a whole,” he said. “Somebody may live in one township or city, work in another, and play in another.”


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on June 13, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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